Monday, July 15, 2019

Dark and Dirty 10k

The state park that I've had up next on my list for a while was Robbers Cave State Park. It sounded like a lot of fun and is about 2 hours away from us. So when I saw they were hosting an evening trail race there this summer, I was really excited. Ty said he would sit out with the kids while I ran but later they posted that every adult entry would give you a free entry for a child. We decided to go ahead and sign Ty and the kids up. Later my parents decided to come camp with us and do the race with the kids so Ty got to actually run the 5k. We were all signed up for the trail course but there was also a gravel choice. After arriving on Saturday and hiking some of the trails we decided the trail course would be too much for the kids so we switched mom, dad, and the kids to the gravel course. We arrived on Saturday a little after 11am and spent the day setting up camp, hiking, swimming, and fishing. It was a busy day and both the kids were pretty tired going into the race. More on our camping experience to come.

The race had a 5k, 10k, 25k, and 50k option and you could run on either trail or gravel. I knew when I signed up from talking with friends who had been out to the state park that the trails were pretty rocky. I went into it expecting all my miles to be 10:00 pace or over. I kind of wanted to run more than a 10k but wasn't willing to commit to 15 plus miles so I went with the 10k and ran a mile warm up and cool down to get 8 miles in for the day and I was so glad. It was the perfect distance for the day and I had a blast! The fact that the course was one 5k loop that repeated to get each distance also played a factor. I would rather run 2 loops than 5 loops! The Tuesday before the race I ran 8 miles at Turkey Mountain starting at 6pm and the temperature with the heat index was 110 degrees. I was prepared for it to be blistering hot and the race was cupless, meaning they would have water out on the course but you had to carry your own bottles to drink the water from. I brought my fuel belt since it was likely to be hot. As the day wore on, I got more and more excited for the race! The kids were pretty excited too. It would be both of their first 5ks since 5k was the shortest distance available.

The 25k and 50k started together at 7:00 and then the 5k and 10k started at 7:15. I knew the trail was single track so once I caught up to some of the tail end 25 and 50k runners, it might get a little tricky trying to pass. I also wanted to get out and around as many people as I could so I wouldn't have to do too much passing. I started toward the front of the race. The gravel and trail races started together and then the gravel course continued on the gravel while the trail turned to the left and onto the trail. I was surprised when we turned onto the gravel section and we had a giant hill about a quarter mile long to trek up right at the start. There was a girl who shot out way in front and then there was a man between me and her. Partway up the hill the man started to walk and I cruised past him. I slowly chipped away at the girl's lead as we ascended the hill. By the time we turned onto the trail she wasn't far ahead. My plan going into the race was to run conservatively for the first lap to get a feel for how technical the course was. Then I'd pick it up on the second loop. I planned to maintain my distance behind the girl in front and not let her pull away. Then I'd see if she was running the 5k or 10k when we finished the loop and if she was running the 10k I'd take off on the 2nd loop.

We hit another long hill right before the mile mark and I quickly reeled the girl in. I was almost walking to stay behind her and she was huffing and puffing. She pulled to the side and waved me around her. I felt great so I was fine with going on around her but I was a little disappointed that I'd have no way to know whether she was in the 5k or 10k because I'd make it to the finish area before her. My Garmin showed my first mile was 10:30. That didn't surprise me at all because we had 2 really long, steep hills in that mile. That section of the trail was also really technical. During the 2nd mile I started catching up to some of the slower 25 and 50k runners. Most moved over to allow me to pass but there were a couple I had to walk behind for a bit before getting the chance to go around them. The course was marked incredibly well with orange flags tied to trees really frequently on the course. I was mostly able to look down for rocks and roots while watching in my peripheral for the orange. I had a couple times I ran toward a tree with orange painted on it rather than a flag tied to it so I had to stop and look around for a moment to find the tree I was actually supposed to run to. Mile 2 was 11:03. I felt like that mile was the most difficult of the race with the trail being very technical so I fully expected it to be the slowest of my loop.

I knew I was ahead of everyone, male or female, in both the 5k and 10k and was having such a blast. I got excited, thinking if I was in front of all the men, it was likely Ty could place in the top 3. That got me even more excited as I ran. It was nice to be able to fully run my own race and not worry about other racers around me. I ran very comfortably hard. When I came up on the 3rd mile we popped out of the trail and ran along what was a gravel road with grass growing down the middle but I thought it was just a gravel section of trail that was really overgrown. It wasn't until after the race that I realized what that section of the trail was. We turned left and then ran down the giant hill we had come up. I really got moving on that downhill and was flying by 25 and 50k runners. By the time I got to the end of the hill I was running under 7:00 pace. My 3rd mile was 9:38, thanks to that monster downhill. I went through the first loop in 32:21. My goal was to run the second loop faster so I told myself I needed to finish in 64:42 or under. I took off up that giant uphill again and it was definitely harder the second time around. I was almost to the top when I saw the girl I had been running behind coming down the hill. I knew even if she was in the 10k, I had a good 5 minute lead on her and I was feeling really good! When I finally made it to the turn off to the trail course I was so ready to be done with that hill. After cresting it, I told myself I just had one more big hill in the first mile. I hit the mile mark a little before the next hill this time around. My 4th mile was 10:00 and then I got to go up that next hill. It definitely felt longer and harder than it had the first time around. I also didn't have the nice pick me up of passing someone up the hill like I had the last time.

Somewhere in the next mile I was shocked to pass Elise and my mom on the trail. They were supposed to be on the gravel course. I tried to high five Elise but I think I scared her and she just stood, shocked, staring at me. I thought she was scared about being on the trail. I yelled back at them asking why they had ended up on the trail course and my mom said they had been on the gravel but had taken a wrong turn at some point and ended up on the trail. I spent much of the next mile worrying about them and wanting to finish as fast as I could so I could go back and help them get to the finish. Mile 5 was 10:56. I don't think I really looked at any of my mile splits but I knew I was likely running faster on the 2nd loop. I knew what to expect and when I got to some less technical sections of the trails with fewer rocks and roots, I really let loose and opened my stride. Mile 6 came just a little while down the hill instead of at the end of the hill this time so my 6th mile wasn't quite as fast as my 3rd mile at 10:21. But man, I flew down that hill. I got great momentum coming down the hill and turning toward the finish. Everyone at the finish line was impressed when they saw me coming flying toward the finish. I saw Ty standing by the finish and cheering. I ran the last 0.27 of the race in 6:20 pace! The race director came over and asked me if I was in the 5k and I told him I was in the trail 10k. He said, "Wow, you're the first one to finish!" They gave me my award and Ty told me he had finished 1st overall male in the 5k! The only person who had beat him was the girl I ran with for a bit, it turned out she was in the 5k.
Ty with his award.
I refilled my water bottles so I could take water to mom and Elise. I took off running a cool down. By the time I made it halfway up that hill again, I just couldn't do it and decided to walk. I saw Dad and Carter coming down the hill and told them what had happened with Elise and mom and what I was doing. I knew I'd have to go further up the hill and turn right to go through the loop backward to find mom and Elise. When I got on the gravel trail I didn't remember that portion of the course because I hadn't realized it was a road running it from the other direction. I thought it was wrong especially because I kept running through spider webs and I knew I shouldn't be going through spider webs with how many people came through there. But it was right and I likely was hitting spider webs because I was on the opposite side of the road. I found the turn back into the trail and then I knew I was in the right place! I asked a few people if they'd seen a little blonde girl with a women and they'd tell me yes, a ways back, so I knew I'd find them. I was worried it was going to get dark before they finished and I was worried Elise was getting scared and might cry. She's hiked 3 or more miles before but never after already hiking, rock climbing, and swimming that day! It took me a mile of running to get to them and mom was so relieved to see me! I gave them some water which Elise chugged down and Oma only got a little. We were walking for a while before seeing Ty coming back to us and boy, were we glad! I was pretty worn out and carrying Elise was not easy! Ty took Elise and carried her most of the way back. He was able to go even faster than we were. As we came up to the finish mom said she'd run it in, but she was too tired! She'd had to carry Elise some and was worn out! I felt bad that Elise and mom had ended up on the trail because the trail was a loop whereas the gravel was an out and back. I had figured on the gravel if Elise got tired they could turn around early and go back. They were stuck on the trail!
Mom said the only place Elise complained was that first really long hill. As you can see the gravel trail wasn't exactly easy either!
This was the easy portion of the trail.
When we finished Carter was at the finish line waiting for us. He was excitedly showing us his medal with something hidden behind his back. Then he pulled a plaque out from behind his back and showed us he had finished 2nd overall male in the gravel 5k. I couldn't believe it! Dad had carried him for a bit and then put him down toward the end to run it in and Carter finished ahead of him. They gave dad the 3rd place award. Dad said they saw Carter being carried and still gave him an award when he finished. I'm guessing they didn't have many people in the gravel 5k because almost all of them were in the trail race so I hope someone didn't miss out on an award because Carter got one. But boy was Carter proud and excited and for finishing that whole 5k with that giant hill at 6 years old, he really did deserve an award whether he got carried a bit or not! My mom was disappointed they didn't give out age group awards because Elise did the whole 5k and at 4 years old doing a difficult trail 5k was super impressive! Elise was thrilled with her medal and they were giant. I have never seen her get so excited about a medal before and I felt like it was likely because she worked so hard for it! She kept showing it off and talking about how big it was. Though if you ask her if she wants to run the race again next year, she adamantly says no! After signing the kids up I kept wondering if it was a mistake since the longest race Carter had ever done was 2 miles and Elise had only ever done a mile fun run. But man was I glad because they were both so excited and proud. Carter even wanted to call his Gma and Gpa to tell them about it! We figured we'd get back to our campsite and start a fire to roast hot dogs for dinner but they had a ton of food at the finish which was wonderful! There was pulled pork, brisket, hot dogs, brats, and stuff to make street tacos!

I finished 1st out of 32 finishers in the 10k with a time of 1:04:16. I ran my first 5k in 32:21 and my second in 31:56! The races were all heavy with females and I was 1st out of 21 females. I was surprised when I saw how outnumbered men were in the race! Ty was 2nd out of 28 finishers in the 5k and 1st of 13 men with a time of 40:31. Carter finished the 5k in 1:18:17 and dad finished in 1:18:21. Elise finished the 5k in 1:43:10 being carried the last half mile by Ty. Mom finished in 1:47:02. She said next year if we do the race again, she'll hang out at the campsite with the kids! Of all the trail races I've run, this was the most technical, but also the one I enjoyed the most! Armadillo wasn't quite as technical but I struggled a lot more because the first half was relatively easy terrain whereas the second half was really technical and I ran the first portion fast not realizing that and really struggled when I got to the technical section. That race was what taught me to run conservatively at the start of trail races, just in case! This was such a fun race and a wonderful state park experience! Look for more on our camping experience to come.


  1. Unfortunately, because of the dog that was so determined to start the race, Elise and I were the last to start. That left us with just one person to see at the turn we took that must have been the wrong one. She looked quite a while before she turned and so did we, but we both went the wrong way! Elise was quite the trooper, but it was exhausting, though a pretty trail.

    1. I'm surprised it wasn't marked more obviously because the rest of the course was marked so well. When I said you guys ended up on the wrong trail, dad said, I hope they didn't take a right so he must've seen the tricky spot when he and Carter went that way.